Although the actual product might seem delicate, elegant and sweet, behind the scenes, the process of it sure is bitter, sweaty, rigorous and almost unfathomable–kind of like the day after drinking it.
Filled with Châteaux and vineyards surrounding the city’s borders, wine has become dirt cheap in Bordeaux; since it’s one of France’s number 1 exports, picking grapes–similar to picking olives in the Mediterranean, argon oil in the Middle East or marijuana in the good ol’ US of A–was just another culturally grandiose idea for me.
Visions of a Vineyard
The current love of my life confirmed the idea after having heard whispers of “farming” and “picking” during my travels through Spain.
He needed to make extra cash-money to come back home with me to America, and the best option was working on vineyard. I was all for it, excited even, but he constantly reassured me it wasn’t going to be all flowers and chocolate.
At the time we were residing in Toulouse (southern France), 3 – 4 hours away from Bordeaux on the train (SNCF- sncf.com)
All of August and September we looked up a million vineyards, sent emails, made phone calls, got into fights, and stressed ourselves out since the thought of him not returning to New York with me killed me…
The wine season in France is mid-September to early November. Most Châteaux give you room and board (with food) if you plan ahead and set up a certain time spam, sort of like WWOOFING but not, because you actually get paid.
No vineyard EVER confirmed any work with us from our comfortable abode in Toulouse, and work in Toulouse wasn’t even an option–there just wasn’t any. Another discouraging factor was that I didn’t have European papers or a visa (illegal in Europe for over a year now).
We went to Bordeaux with nothing but a tent, clothes, and SOME money–that was about it. We had no clue about Bordeaux, none of us had ever been there before, but what we DID know was that we were going to find a vineyard, knock right on their front door and beg for work.
The minute we got off the train we went straight to a tourist office near the station and got a brochure of every single vineyard located in the region, the funny thing was that the pamphlet was designed for tourists who wanted to book wine tours and tastings, not brutal work.
Trying to soak in the city, we walked over to the Gironde river (which leads out to the Atlantic) located in the city center, laid on the grass and started calling; to our surprise a lot of the listings weren’t the same as we found over the Internet.
Literally within an hour of being in Bordeaux a vineyard (Château du Taillan Médoc) gave us the “OK” and told us to show up the following morning at the break of dawn (6:45 am).